Chilean judge closes Pinochet money investigation

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — A nine-year investigation into allegations of illegal enrichment by the late Gen. Augusto Pinochet ended Monday with no charges filed against the dictator’s family.

Pinochet’s loyalists often overlooked his human rights record and praised him for a supposedly austere, corruption-free government. But he lost many close allies after allegations of hidden wealth were revealed in 2004 by a U.S Senate committee investigating money laundering by the Riggs Bank of Washington. Other accounts were later discovered in Europe and the Caribbean.

Judge Manuel Antonio Valderrama ended the investigation Monday, though his decision not to charge anyone in the family can be appealed.

“We’re now going to wait for the outcome after both parties are notified and whether they ask for a re-opening with new proceedings,” Valderrama told reporters outside a Santiago court.

Six former military officers have been charged in the case.

Valderrama, who took over the case in 2008, did not say why the investigation was ending. He is seen as an independent judge and has also handled human rights cases.

The dictator’s known wealth, including real estate, cars and several million dollars in bank accounts, remains embargoed. Pinochet and his family always said his money came from savings, donations and investments.

But an academic study ordered by Chile’s Supreme Court determined the dictator accumulated $21 million before he died and said only $3 million of it was justified by his military salary.

“It’s satisfactory that finally justice has determined that there was no responsibility and no illegal act was committed,” Rodrigo Garcia Pinochet, one of the dictator’s grandsons, told state television.

Chile’s government estimates 3,095 people were killed during Pinochet’s 1973-90 dictatorship. He died under house arrest without ever being tried on charges of human rights violations and illegal enrichment.

“There was a lack of investigation in this case … The origin of Pinochet’s money couldn’t be determined,” Alfonso Insunza, a plaintiff attorney, told CNN Chile. “The dictator committed many other crimes, including crimes against humanity, but this also showed that dictatorship leads to corruption.”

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Luis Andres Henao on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LuisAndresHenao

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